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Worse than Writer’s Block

By on Mar 14, 2009 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

There is a condition that happens to writers, an illness that grips their very souls. It’s even more horrible than writer’s block, which involves sitting at a blank screen with no words coming to mind. In that debilitating state a writer feels useless. No, worse – impotent. You know there is much to be said but you can’t figure out what to say. Even if you can write a sentence, you’re sure no one would want to read it.

This is generally not my problem. I am rarely at a loss for words (whether or not anyone wants to hear/read them). I was after all reared in my professional life as a journalist. Deadlines leave little room for writer’s block. The looming spector of a blank white space and a ferocious editor hell bent on filling it is enough to make the words come.

The condition to which I’m referring here is paralyzing. It is enough to shut down a writer completely and send him looking for work flipping burgers (which is a fine profession, and I totally respect anyone who does so because my world – and that of my children – would be sadly lacking without burgers).

This is stage fright – and absolute terrorizing fear that people will not only dislike but openly ridicule what you write. In it’s extreme, it keeps people from writing. They don’t even try to put words down on a page or if they do, they allow no one to see it.

There is another form of this disease, in some ways milder but equally devasting. Those afflicted with this write carefully. They strip their stories of life, paring them down to the banal. It’s safe. The sky is blue. Who can criticize that? It’s a careful statement of fact. But what if the sky is a soft shade of azur blue tinted with a hint of sharp pink? The writer with stage fright worries someone will criticize the choice of the word azur or maybe “sharp” in front of pink is too much.

I got over my terminal stage fright by becoming a journalist who is forced to write every day. But I still battle a lingering chronic version of it. I tend to write safe. I admit this because I am hoping that is a step toward overcoming it. A writer should/must take risks. It’s okay (maybe?) if not everyone likes it. It’s even okay if no one likes it, as long as the writer has written.

(By the way, Stage Fright is why there wasn’t an entry here for so long.)

    1 Comment

  1. Stage Fright — that’s a good definition. Writing safe is drilled into many of us who came up as journalists.

    Al Powell

    March 27, 2009

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